The New Marketing Model for Filmmakers

Indie filmmaking has seen a creative explosion with the advent of YouTube, but the true filmmaker who aspires to launch his or her career as a director or a cinematographer must look for alternate ways to stand out from the crowd. YouTube is almost a trope in itself; the domain itself is almost synonymous with “cat videos,” so it becomes one link in the chain for an aspiring filmmaker. Not the deal maker.

Getting your film noticed at festivals and shown at theaters takes patience and some networking skills. You’ll need to learn how to market on a conservative budget, learning where and how to spend your money so you can reach your intended audience.

Online Media

Tweeting your own ideas is great, but no one really wants to listen to a loudspeaker. That’s why you should use Twitter as a method to engage the influencers most likely to talk about your work. A public relations company can assist with some of your branding online by making recommendations on thought leaders in your film genre and messaging to reach them. Find users with lots of subscribers, then check their Klout scores to see if you’re likely to get retweeted. Spend time retweeting those people, engaging their ideas and making friends with their communities.

Off brand communities like Vimeo host content that is more geared toward serious filmmaking. It’s a great platform on which to host your trailer or some behind-the-scenes footage. Viral videos on YouTube are actually statistically uncommon based on the amount of content that gets uploaded daily. In a smaller community, you are more likely to find a niche you can focus on.

Social bookmarking sites like Reddit are good for spreading your work around. Beyond the default subreddits like r/movies, look for better outlets that match your work like r/filmmakers or r/makingof. These smaller and more specific groups may have decision makers in the industry to connect with, or other filmmakers that you can get tips from to help your efforts.

Convention Appearances

Indie conventions are great places to give away merchandise without paying expensive booth rental prices. Booths can go for a few hundred dollars, and you can spend double that on merchandise. Spend smart and get creative. Put your logos on custom pencils that visitors use to fill out a scavenger hunt-style checklist of things around the convention. Give shirts away to those who return finished cards to you.

There is a non-profit group of Star Wars impersonators who raise money for charity. They feature a “droid hunt” where convention goers are handed a card with a droid’s description and are asked to spot that droid in the crowd. This kind of hide and seek game is excellent for horror movies where “spot the zombie” might be a fun activity to raise awareness.

Some prep time will go a long way. Have some interesting info or gossip for bloggers who may wander past your booth. Use QR codes that link to a mobile optimized website where convention-goers can view a trailer or see a unique pitch for your film. Posters and well-designed images are, of course, great supplements.

Horror Movies

Those lucky enough to make horror films get to have all the fun, it seems. There is a huge explosion of viral marketing for new films, especially ‘found footage’ horror films like Paranormal Activity 5, which recently launched a spin-off campaign with YouTube and Twitter. A viral website populated with “real” news articles about ships in Japan disappearing heralded the coming of new Godzilla film. Men in Black took over bus stop benches with spray painted signs that read “The Men in Black Suits are Real.”

Amateur filmmakers are starting to utilize some of these viral marketing ideas by producing six-second shorts for Vine. Vine is like Twitter for film, and the medium has spawned an interesting method of storytelling. You can use these short films as tie-ins to your movie, or as pitch ideas when you are looking for additional funding.

The possibilities for marketing films online is only expanding, and the amateur film maker with serious ambition doesn’t need to look far for a chance to promote his ideas.

This is a guest post

About Shawn Hartley

Creative technologist by day. VP at Corporate 3 Design in Omaha. Proud father and husband.


  1. Vine and Instagram Video are becoming new interesting marketing platforms for filmmakers to utilize! Great article, thanks for publishing it Shawn! Now I’m going to help market it for you 🙂